The Warsaw Federal Incline Theatre is set to open in June, while its creators wait in the wings with fingers crossed.

“It’s a wonderful life,” says Tim Perrino. “Now, if I can keep from jumping off that bridge, I’ll be fine.”

If you don’t know Perrino, you might not know what to make of a statement like that. Is he being flip? Or is he a troubled soul? Or... well, what is he saying?

First, you need to understand that Perrino is executive artistic director of Cincinnati Landmark Productions. He’s the guy who turned the once-moribund Showboat Majestic into a successful and popular summer theater venture, running it for 23 seasons. He’s also the guy who turned an abandoned movie theater in West Price Hill into the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, a year-round theater operation that not only offers populist stage fare but has become the anchor of a neighborhood returning to economic health.

Now, Perrino and his organization are about to open the Warsaw Federal Incline Theatre, the first dedicated legitimate theater to be built in Cincinnati in a generation. The last was the Aronoff Center, which opened in 1995.

So, was that stress we heard in his voice? A bit, perhaps. The 229-seat theater, located at Matson Place and West Eighth Street in East Price Hill, is scheduled to open June 3, with a full slate of celebratory events scheduled in the days leading up to it. So, Perrino and his overworked staff are not only fretting about actors being ready for opening night, but also things like if the parking spots are spaced and marked correctly or if the plumbing will be installed and functional or even if the wiring will meet code—all the usual delights that comes along with new construction projects.

Mostly, though, he’s kidding about that bridge. Perrino is a calm operator. Decades as a theatrical producer will do that to you.

“We have every belief that we’re going to make it,” says Perrino, sounding every bit the smooth negotiator that he has had to be to turn this $6 million dream into a reality.

In fact, as this conversation unfolded, crews were starting to drill holes for the posts that will anchor all of the theater’s seats. In a week, the seats themselves will arrive. That’s just four weeks before the theater opens.

Like any up-from-the-ground construction project, this has been a mammoth exercise in heavy-equipment choreography. It’s not just a matter of getting things done. They all have to be done in precisely the right order. Seats and carpet are among the final touches. Install them too early and they get in the way of laying electric and plumbing and the many out-of-the-ordinary demands involved in building a working theater.

“It’s definitely a complicated process,” Perrino says. “You’ve got to have friends and allies in a variety of disciplines to make something like this happen. It’s not enough to just have the support of investors or politicians or artists or designers or audience members, or any other single group of people. If you have just one or two of them, you won’t get anything done. You have to put them all together in the right order and at the right time.”

Nearly five years ago, Perrino and Rodger Pille, Landmark’s director of communications and development, began cobbling together the impressive network of supporters and volunteers that have brought this project to fruition.

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, a powerful advocate of the Incline District, has been an ally since the earliest days of the theater’s planning and was followed by other heavy hitters from the private sectors: KB Partners LLC, The Greater Cincinnati Foundation and the Otto M. Budig Family Foundation, among others, as well as the title sponsor, Warsaw Federal.

Somewhere along the way, they picked up capital funding from the state of Ohio and an economic development grant from the city of Cincinnati. Additional underwriting came from New Markets Tax Credit allocations from Cincinnati Development Fund and PNC.

It’s an impressive list. But then, it’s a pretty impressive project.

More than satisfying some expansionist urge, this new facility will give Landmark Productions a chance to produce shows that it wouldn’t normally stage at its Covedale location, where shows tend to be solidly mainstream and family friendly.

After a summer season that includes The Producers (June 3-21), 1776 (July 8-26) and 9 to 5 (Aug. 12-30), the Incline productions take a slightly edgier turn, with productions of Extremities (Sept. 30-Oct. 18), Rent (Dec. 2-20), Avenue Q (Feb. 17-March 6) and Glengarry Glen Ross (April 6-24).

“This is a chance for us to present a slightly different repertory,” says Pille. 

It’s also a chance to attract a slightly different audience, too. 

“We expect that some of our audience from the Covedale will come over to the Incline Theatre to see shows. But this is a chance for us to grow our audience a little eastward.”

According to Google Maps, the new theater is just seven minutes from the heart of downtown Cincinnati. As Pille likes to point out, you can actually see the theater’s two nearest neighbors, Incline Public House and Primavista, from downtown, too.

“We think we can get some of those people to come up the hill and see what we’re doing,” says Pille. “And once we get them here, we have a chance to broaden their horizons.”

That’s a salesman for you—ready to sell you tickets for seats that aren’t off the truck yet. But then, it’s that mix of pragmatic optimism and cautious planning that has been a hallmark of Perrino’s operations since he launched the Cincinnati Young People’s Theatre in 1982.

“From the very beginning, I’ve been surrounded by people with good hearts and great brains,” says Perrino. “We’re on schedule, on budget and on target. I can’t wait to show this place to everybody.”